William Armstrong Davisson

(From a newspaper tribute that appeared in 1900, author unknown.)

William Armstrong Davisson was born February 27, 1813, in Harrison County, Virginia, at Bridgeport. He is the son of Dr. David Davisson and Maria Verman Davisson. When Will was about twenty Dr. Davissson was elected Clerk of the Courts and the family moved to Clarksburg. Will became his father's deputy and for several years his duties brought him in contact with some of Virginia's finest legal orators. He studied law and statecraft, and before he left the courthouse had made some reputation as a public speaker.

In 1834 he was commissioned by Governor Littleton W. Tagewell, 2nd lieutenant of the third regiment of the twentieth brigade of the third division of Virginia's militia, and the old time worn commission is one of his most interesting relics. Other forces were at work, however, and his family looking over an old record of his found most of the selections were not from Virginia orators, but from the great poets who at that time were the pride of Britain and America- less of Blackstone, more of Burne, Moore and Scott.

On the 30th of June 1835, Mr. Davisson was married to Mary Alanda M. Canley. There were seven children born to this union, Cordelia, Ross, Maria Penelope, William Armstrong, David Jones, John Scott, Mary Alanda. When Cordelia was an infant, Mr. Davisson went to Ohio, and the next spring moved his family to a farm there. This farm, on which a part of Luna has been built, was sold to his father, I believe.

On the 4th of July, 1840, he and his family crossed the Mississippi, and I have heard him say the town on the Iowa side was illuminated for celebration at the time. He lived on a farm near Burlington for some time, and came to his present home in May 1841.* (Note: W.A. Davisson homesteaded an area including Bunker hill at Fairview, in northwest corner of Washington County, about two miles slightly southeast of Hinkletown, and was a charter member of the Union Horse Company.)

His first caller in his new home was Ko-ko-wats, a chief of the Musquakas, who came with his body painted and his head decorated as a sign of distress. The Indian told a sad story of sickness and destitution at his wigwam, and the white man gave such relief as he could. The two men became great friends. Mr. Davisson ministered to the Indians in the sickness and they returned his generosity in the best Indian fashion. He learned much of their language and sympathized with them in their pathetic history.

Mrs. Davisson died Saturday, August 7, 1847. One of the children died before the mother, and three others in childhood. The other three, Scott, Maria and Alanda, are still living.

It seemed the death of his first wife "set the gates ajar" and shortly thereafter Mr. Davisson united with the Methodist Epicopal Church. He became a local preacher in that organization, a Sunday School superintendent and a class leader, and his house became the meeting house for the neighborhood.

On the first of February 1854, Mr. Davisson was married to Mary Elizabeth Rogers. Seven children were born to them, Adelia Caroline, Laura Augusta, Mary Ida, Ingaba Ellen, William Wellington, Peter DeVecnon, and Pheobe Alice. Of these, the last four are yet living.

After he came west he avoided public life. He was nominated to the convention that framed Iowa's first constitution, but declined the honor and nominated Mr. Ross who became a member of that convention and helped to frame the document under which Iowa entered upon statehood.

At the same time he took great interest in national affairs and takes pride in the facthe voted for Freemont and voted for William Harrison the first time he was nominated.

His views of government are too valuable to be ignored, opposing Socialism with its unnatural impersonal aim on one hand and the old world idea of fate and divine right on the other hand. He regards Americanism as representing intelligent human purpose and an individualism to be perfected by rational aims, independence in standards of success and enlightened conscientiousness.

I do not feel able to characterize him, yet his character is more important than any event of his life. His nearest friend cannot see the world from his point of view, or understand how independent his mind was of its environment. Those who loved him have compared him to Goldsmith's "Village Preacher" and Whittier's "Abraham Davenport."

In all things he is a pioneer who never seeks the "main traveled road" or looks for the sign board of public opinion, but blazes his own way. To me he recalls the tribute that Lowell pays to Cooper:

"I honor the man who is willing to sink- half his repute for the freedom to think:

And when he has thought, be it strong or be it weak,Will risk the other half for the freedom to speak.

Caring not for what vengeance the mob have in store: Let that mob be the upper ten thousand or lower."

 

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